Ahead of AU/EU Summit, Faith Leaders in Africa Decry Failed Promises, Specify Gaps

Logo of the signatories to the declaration on AU-EU partnership
Credit: African Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN)

Ahead of the planned Summit of the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) leaders, representatives of various Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and Civil Societies Organizations (CSOs) in Africa have, in a joint statement, decried the loss of touch with the agenda made during previous meetings.

In the Thursday, February 18 collective statement, the leadership of the FBOs and CSOs in Africa specify the gaps in the implementation of the previous resolutions and offer recommendations that foster AU/EU partnerships that foster Africa’s strategic development.

“The 2020 EU Strategy with Africa seems to have lost touch with this agenda (TFRA) altogether, failing to address agriculture and food systems but rather concentrating on creating a conducive environment for large scale private sector business interests,” representatives of the FBOs and CSOs in Africa say.

They include the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA), Caritas Africa, and the Council of Churches of Zambia,  yamong others, offer recommendations for Africa’s strategic development to the AU/EU policymakers. 

The leaders recall taking part in the consultation around the formation of the Task Force Rural Africa (TFRA) whose members provide recommendations on how to strengthen cooperation between the EU and Africa in food and farming sectors.

They say that the EU Strategy with Africa is “largely silent on the needs of the more than 60% of African households who depend upon family farming and small-scale food production for their livelihoods.”

The EU Strategy with Africa is a document that seeks to strengthen cooperation between the people of God on the two continents through partnerships in the areas of peace and governance, migration and mobility, green transition, digital transformation, sustainable growth, and jobs.

In the February 18 statement, Africa’s faith-based and civil society representatives add that policy spaces in Africa are “crowded by external actors” while rural Africa is dominated by farmers, pastoralists, forest communities and artisanal fisherfolk. 

Most African nations have been “induced” by external initiatives to “subsidize an external-input based, export-oriented, commodity monocrop model of agricultural development, and to rely heavily on the transfer of land for timber, oil, gas and mineral exploitation to generate foreign exchange, often without or despite environmental impact assessment,” they explain.

“Africa’s rainforests, earth’s second lungs, surrender their riches while the price of forest carbon is negotiated in World Bank and IMF boardrooms,” the representatives bemoan, adding that the dispossession that mostly involves “peasant owned communal lands” puts African food systems at complete collapse. 

As a way forward, the leadership of the African entities advocate for the promotion of “access to land for youth in order to reduce waves of migration and the unemployment gap in African countries.”

They urge the AU/EU policymakers to work toward ensuring that there is space for civil society actors “both inside and outside decision-making spaces.”

In their collective February 18 statement, the representatives of the FBOs and CSOs in Africa caution against the commoditization of Africa’s natural resources, bought and sold by multinational corporations and local elites.

There is a need to “urgently rethink the approach to agricultural development in Africa, reverse the attachment to industrial farming systems and refocus on a holistic, sustainable and culturally appropriate model,” they further say.

The leaders also urge the AU/EU policymakers to “adopt a legally binding UN treaty to ensure that transnational corporations are fully accountable for their human rights violations and environmental crimes.”

Efforts should be made to ensure that in Africa, “land remains in the hands of its legitimate users and it’s management respects nature and reflects the needs and aspirations of the communities who live off the land,” they say.

The February 18 declaration of the FBOs and CSOs in Africa is also supported by the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE), Act Alliance EU, and the African Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN).

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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